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Soccer-Czechs aim to attack more, shackle Georgia’s ‘Kvara-dona’

By Thomson Reuters Jun 21, 2024 | 7:27 PM

By Andrew Cawthorne

HAMBURG, Germany (Reuters) – The Czech Republic aim to shackle Georgia’s exciting winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia in Saturday’s Euro 2024 clash while unleashing their own attackers more than they could in their opener.

Coach Ivan Hasek’s side were largely on the back foot in their first Group F game where they lost 2-1 to Portugal, and want to express themselves more against unfancied Georgia who also lost their first match.

“We really do want to attack, get set pieces, and be dangerous,” Hasek said, declaring his entire side fit for the game in Hamburg. “We didn’t attack that well in the first game, and that’s why we want to do it tomorrow. We want to show it.”

Championship debutants Georgia gave Turkey a rough ride in their first game, despite the losing scoreline of 3-1, and will hope once again to defend stoutly and hit on counter-attacks.

“We have to be really focussed and not let them counterattack, that is their biggest threat,” said Czech midfielder Antonin Barak beside his manager at a news conference.

Georgia’s main talent is Napoli winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, whom fans nicknamed “Kvara-dona” in reference to late Argentine hero Diego Maradona.

“Yes he’s a big star,” said Barak, recalling his role in Napoli’s 2023 title-winning side. “On the other hand, in the national team, his role is a little different, he doesn’t have so much support from his team, he plays a little further down.

“We are getting ready for him, we are preparing ourselves. But we do not forget the other players, they have a lot of attacking force. So it is not only about Khvicha, but he is a superstar definitely.”

‘CANNOT LOSE’

Also on the radar is Georges Mikautadze, who against Turkey netted Georgia’s first ever goal at the Euros.

Hasek said his team would be aiming to prise open space in Georgia’s stubborn defence in a game both teams need to win for their first points of the tournament and a shot at reaching the knockout stage.

Czech forward Patrik Schick should be able to maraud more than he was able to against Portugal.

“Georgia knows and we know that we cannot lose. But it won’t be that wild of a game,” Hasek said. “Georgia have players who can attack but they won’t open the defence.”

Barak said the team were determined to impress.

“We want to introduce some different elements, we want to create our own playing style,” he said. “I hope that tomorrow we win and that we show the fans how we can attack but also be reliable and compact in the defence … We want them to feel joy about how we play and together we will be happy.”

(Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Toby Chopra)